A wind turbine is a machine which uses the kinetic energy of wind and converts it into mechanical energy for various purposes. The mechanical energy produced can either be used directly by machines for various purposes or can be converted to electricity. If the turbine serves the first purpose, it is called a windmill. A wind turbine using mechanical energy for electricity is popularly called a wind generator.
The use of wind for purposeful activity is not new to man. As early as 200 B.C., Persians employed wind machines for various tasks. For over 5 millennia, wind power has been used for propelling boats and ships. Given the exploration and discovery of fossil fuels, the potential of wind energy was largely abandoned and has only recently been revived. Today, wind energy is used for electricity, pumping of water, grinding stones, etc. Windmills used for pumping water are better called wind pumps. The most extensive use of wind pumps is seen in Australia and southern African countries.
In fact, the most useful of wind machines, the wind turbine, have been developed very recently. In comparison to fossil fuel power plants, which generate hundreds of MW of electricity on an average, a large wind turbine can only generate a few MW. However, the technological development of wind machines is gaining rapid support and momentum, and within a few years, wind power will be able to generate a considerable amount of power and hopefully come in as a relief from the growing scarcity of fossil fuel power.
It is not surprising that generators are being looked at as the new alternative energy source, since fuel prices are hiking and reserves are running out. There are many areas that can become fully dependent on wind power for their energy need owing to their windy conditions. One such area is Midwestern United States.
Germany leads the international wind power generation with over 22,000 MW in the year 2007, followed by United States with a production of almost 17,000 MW. Percentage wise, almost 7% of electricity consumption in Germany is wind electricity, 0.77% in US and 7.9% in Spain. India is a rising wind power consumer with 1.9% (8,000 MW) power consumption in the form of wind electricity.
20% of Denmark’s electricity is of this type. There are many prominent wind turbine manufacturers from Denmark. This could be seen as a result of a commitment it made in 1970s to use wind power for generation of half of its overall power consumption.
They are no longer limited to large-scale power consumption with the rise of a popular production in the form of small wind turbines. These small wind turbines provide for electrical consumption on a residential level. They are particularly useful for homes in remote locations which are not served by utilities.
The growing popularity of wind turbines cannot be alienated from its potential low cost associated with its growth in popularity. Wind electricity could be very cheap to produce. These turbines require very little maintenance, and they can cut electricity costs by more than half. Hopefully, wind turbines will outnumber fossil fuel plants in the coming future and pave a way for a safe and healthy Earth.